The Story of Wasteland from 1 to 3: A Fanboy’s Retrospective

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I thumbed through the bills one more time. Ten dollars exactly. “Mom, can I trade these ones for a ten dollar bill so I don’t look like such a dork?”

I was (over)preparing to pay my month’s allowance money for bootleg copies of a couple brand new video games that I read about in Computer Gaming World magazine. It was 1988, I was 12 years old, and my mom was about to drive me to a friend-of-a-friend’s house to make the illegal transaction. Sorry mom, you’re now an accessory to a crime.

The two games were Wasteland and Bard’s Tale 3: Thief of Fate. I was a huge Mad Max fan at this point and Wasteland was everything I ever wanted in a video game. I didn’t even realize the scope of that fact yet, but it really did change my life.

Wasteland 1 Screenshot

I played Wasteland religiously. Before school, after school, and on weekends, I progressed my team of Desert Rangers through to the end of the game more times than I care to admit. Wasteland taught me about radiation poisoning, cyborgs, and that an AK-47 takes 7.62mm rounds.

I eventually put the game away and sold it with my Commodore 64 during that silly I’m-too-old-to-play-games phase that eventually went away, but I never forgot my favorite.

The original Wasteland was a revolutionary RPG, not only due to its post-apocalyptic setting, but also its non-linear design. You actually had choices in Wasteland. You could choose whether or not to blow up that store in Needles or give your last bottle of Snake Squeezins to the hobo living in the boxcar. Both had their own sets of consequences.

Wasteland 1 ScreenshotIt was also the first time I had played a party-based RPG where you could split your group up into teams and control each individually from their own perspective. This was a strategic implementation that not only helped in the more difficult battles, but it was mandatory to solve certain puzzles.

Fast forward 22 years later and I’m a video game journalist working for Joystiq/Massively. I was at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) interviewing game developers when I ran into Interplay founder and Wasteland co-creator Brian Fargo at the Bethesda booth. Now, you have to understand that my childhood heroes at that point were not rock stars or athletes but old school role-playing game devs like Richard Garriott and Brian Fargo. And here was Fargo standing five feet in front of me.

I eventually worked up the nerve to corner him in a dark E3 hallway like a goon where I let him know just how much I loved and missed the original Wasteland. He revealed that he was working on this idea to start the ball rolling for a sequel. That was almost too much for me to handle, but I was beyond excited for the possibilities. I noticed him glancing at my media badge (Oh yeah, I forgot that I was there for work!) so I asked him if he would be interested in an interview. He agreed, but I made the mistake of putting that on hold while I asked for permission from my boss at the time. Unfortunately, the only industry legends my boss was concerned with were all from Japan, so that in-person interview never happened.

I ran into Fargo again at the Game Developer’s Conference the following year, at which point he showed me the early version of the first Wasteland 2 promo teaser on his laptop. By that time, I was the Editor-in-Chief at Joystiq’s MMO spin-off site, Massively, so I didn’t have to ask anyone permission to interview one of the most influential game designers of our time.

Wasteland 2

Wasteland 2 broke records for its 2012 crowd-funding campaign by raising over $3 Million through Kickstarter and Paypal. It released in 2014 to critical acclaim, earning the Game of the Year award by PC World and a current 81/100 Metacritic score. So I guess you could say that it was kind of a big deal.

The sequel appeased many long-time fans such as myself for its strong connection to the original storyline, while introducing modern gameplay and graphical improvements. But perhaps more importantly, Wasteland 2 introduced the Wasteland world to a whole new generation of gamers. I can imagine that, while making fans of the original giddy with excitement over a part two, it’s even more fulfilling to attract a much more finicky breed of gamer who never touched Wasteland 1.

Wasteland 3 Screenshot

So now, here we are, facing the release of the series’ third installment on August 28th. This one will introduce multiplayer co-op for the first time, vehicular combat, more graphical improvements, as well as a change of scenery to the Colorado mountains.

It’s thirty two years later and I don’t have to count out my money or ask my mom for a ride to buy this latest version. But I have to say that I’m still equally as excited.

You can grab Wasteland 3 this Friday, August 28th, for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. No word yet on a Commodore 64 version.

**Wasteland 3 will be on Gamepass for Xbox and PC AT LAUNCH. Check out our list of post-apocalyptic games on Xbox Gamepass here.

Be sure to check out our latest interview with Fargo where he discusses Wasteland 3, DLC plans, potential Wasteland spin-offs, and more. You can also follow our on-going Wasteland 3 coverage for more goodies during and after release.

    Shawn has been infatuated with the post-apocalyptic genre since he wore out his horribly American-dubbed VHS of the original Mad Max as a child. Shawn is the former Editor-in-Chief at, creator of the Aftermath post-apocalyptic immersion event, and author of "AI For All," a guide to navigating this strange new world of artificial intelligence.
    He currently resides on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with his wife and four children.

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